Nailor catches 3 TDs, No. 11 Michigan State tops Rutgers

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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PISCATAWAY, N.J.- After turning the ball over seven times in a loss to Rutgers last year, No. 11 Michigan State turned to the the big-play approach with its new cast of players. It worked to perfection.

Jalen Nailor caught touchdown passes of 63, 63 and 65 yards from Payton Thorne and transfer Kenneth Walker scored on a school-record 94-yard run as the Spartans remained unbeaten with a 31-13 victory over the reeling Scarlet Knights on Saturday.

Michigan State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) is off to its best start since it won its first eight games in 2015, when it reached the College Football Playoff.

“We still have multiple playmakers that y’all haven’t seen yet,” said Nailor, who finished with five catches for a career-best 221 yards, a stadium record. “We have a lot of young guys that are emerging, but it’s just getting more in tune with the playbook and we’ve just been working hard, just trying to get everybody on the same page so far.”

The loss was the third straight for Rutgers (3-3), all against ranked opponents. The Scarlet Knights fell to No. 9 Michigan two weeks ago and No. 7 Ohio State last week. Overall, Rutgers has dropped 33 straight to ranked teams since beating then-No. 23 South Florida 31-0 on Nov. 12, 2009.

“I look at this game, we gave up big plays,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “We gave up four big plays. We haven’t done that. We haven’t given up big plays. You give up big plays, it’s going to be hard to do anything, right? You’re behind the 8-ball.”

Michigan State, which lost to Rutgers 38-27 at home in Mel Tucker‘s debut as coach, rewrote part of its record book in the game, and one for SHI Stadium, Rutgers home.

The run by Walker, who came into the game leading all Football Bowl Subdivision players in rushing, was the longest offensive play in Michigan State history. The previous long run for the Spartans was 90 yards by Lynn Chandnois in 1949 against Arizona; their longest pass play is a 93-yarder from Tony Banks to Nigea Carter against Indiana in 1994.

Walker finished with 233 yards rushing, his second 200-yard game of the season. He has 913 yards this season, an average of 152.2 per game.

Nailor’s 221 receiving snapped the stadium mark of 207 set by Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh in 2003.

Thorne finished 16 of 27 for a career-best 339 yards and the three long TDs.

It was the fifth time in FBS history a team has had a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver in the same game.

“It’s one word. Explosive,” Walker said of the Michigan State offense, which finished with 588 yards to 377 for Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights twice had the lead early. They took a 7-0 edge on a 4-yard pass from Johnny Langan to Aron Cruickshank after their defense thwarted a fake field goal attempt on the opening series.

After the first 63-yard TD to a wide-open Nailor tied the game, Val Ambrosio kicked a 26-yard field goal to put the Scarlet Knights ahead 10-7.

Michigan State needed only five plays to retake the lead, with Nailor making an over-the-shoulder catch at the Rutgers 35 and cutting across the field to score.

A turnover set up Ambroio’s second short field goal and cut the lead to one, but Thorne and Nailor hooked up on a flea-flicker on the Spartans’ first play of their next drive for a 21-13 lead. Thorne handed off to Walker, who pitched back to the quarterback for the long scoring pass. The three TD receptions tied a school record, last matched by Cody White against Rutgers two years ago.

Walker blew the game open midway through the third quarter with his 94-yard run. He went through a huge hole, broke a couple of tackles in front the Michigan State bench and glided to the end zone, exchanging a fist pump with Nailor near the end zone.

MISSING COACH

Not only was Rutgers missing leading receiver Bo Melton with a shoulder injury, receivers coach Tiquan Underwood was not at the game because he was in COVID-19 protocol.

END-OF-HALF FOLLIES

Michigan State cost itself points at the end of the first half. A holding penalty nullified a 10-yard TD run by Walker with 47 seconds to go. After a short completion, the Spartans let the clock run and Thorne threw an incompletion to the end zone as time expired. Referee Larry Smith reviewed the videotape and put a second on the clock.

With Matt Coghlin lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt, Schiano called two timeouts. Coghlin missed the kick.

INDUCTION

Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in a football game against Army in 2010, and four other athletes were inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: At Indiana next Saturday.

“The team is hungry,” Tucker said. “We still have a lot to prove and we haven’t played our best football.”

Rutgers: At Northwestern next Saturday.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.